OUR OPINION: Crime push helps on fuller issues

By NEMS Daily Journal

Police chiefs and sheriffs in Northeast Mississippi plainly see that violent crime and major property crimes are straining in the traces for a breakout in 2012 after 2011 witnessed a disturbing number of particularly grim crimes, including homicides and serious wounds.
Arrests were made in the four murders, three bank robberies and two aggravated assaults that happened inside Tupelo/Lee County during 2011, but law enforcement wants to place more emphasis on prevention, especially relating to repeat offenders.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton and Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson are working from the same perspective about the potential for increased crime and ways to stop it.
Johnson said he wants to work more closely with the district attorney, Trent Kelly, about longer prison sentences in hopes of lowering repeat offender crimes.
Carleton said he wanted to continue a close working relationship with the Tupelo community and other law enforcement in efforts to lower serious crime.
Drive-by shootings, once thought to be a phenomenon of big cities, have happened even in some rural areas. Quiet neighborhoods have been rocked by apparently cold-blooded killings.
No area is immune.
Crime, especially property crimes, has increased in recent years in rural areas and smaller cities.
States report a surge in thefts of property like copper and other costly building materials as prices rise internationally and because of a sluggish American economy, but overall trends have been slightly downward.
Still, Mississippi reports a startling number of crimes each year statewide. The numbers for 2009, the latest full year total reported by the U.S. Justice Department show:
* 8,304 violent crimes
* 190 murders and/or manslaughters
* 939 forcible rapes
* 2,966 robberies
* 4,210 aggravated assaults
* 87,181 property crimes
* 29,162 burglaries
Much of the battle against crime is beyond the reach of law enforcement because it rests on cultural changes that make individual changes more likely.
A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office released in 2007 showed that people who live where poverty is abundant had fewer options in life. The severity of poverty, the report said in summary, often goes hand in hand with the amount of crimes committed. Money is often reinvested “from the open market to the black market to bring about high yet risky return …”
Law enforcement vigilance can deter, but the longer-term deterrent is to make crime less attractive as an alternative to hopelessness.